PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER
LIBERAL HAWK SAYS
Of course liberal hawks like Beinart
want us to believe that public concern about
As always, liberal hawks want the political spotlight focused on domestic affairs, while the governing elite takes care of imperial business unimpeded by bothersome and unpredictable public opinion. They agree with conservative hawks that the public is too ignorant and capricious to be trusted with the awesome responsibility of being the world’s only superpower. That’s a job for hard-headed rational experts, they say.
Rational? Let’s take a look
at Beinart’s argument for
Sounds simple enough, until you
start looking at the complications. Why are there fewer front-page
stories? Not because things have grown rosy in
But Beinart would have us
believe that there is some objective standard at work here, that some magic
number makes a day’s death toll objectively newsworthy, and 21, or even 53,
doesn’t cut it. That’s just silly. If editors and cable show hosts want
Perhaps, though, when Beinart
said “not as many people are dying there” he meant not as many Americans --
which would make sense. Public concern about the war probably reflects concern
The http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~stephan/USfatalities.htmlU.S. death toll has fluctuated a lot since the spring of 2003. Both ’04 and ’05 saw dips as dramatic as we’ve seen in the last half year. There is no clear correlation I can find between those fluctuations and http://www.pollingreport.com/prioriti.htmpublic concern about the war.
In fact public concern about the war is very difficult
to measure. In one recent poll of voter’s top concerns, the economy did edge
Whether Peter Beinart was
talking about Iraqi deaths or
I suspect it’s that editors and cable show hosts are
watching what’s going on, not only in
Among Democrats, virtually all the elite figures have
endorsed the Bush administration’s plan to pursue the “
The elite Dems, like the
Republicans, want to sweep the nation’s antiwar mood under the rug. But the
only way to do it is to ignore the war itself. The more that Americans hear
about the war, the more they want all
The bipartisan elite is fending off the rising antiwar tide by a huge public relations campaign to persuade us that it’s OK to keep fighting the war as long as the levels of violence are falling. Since they do have statistics that seem to show a short-term drop in violence, their PR effort has been quite successful. The public demand to bring our troops home has fallen in recent months.
Democratic leaders -- including their leading presidential candidates -- and pundits know that if the war remains a big issue, they face a double threat: Either they will stoke the fires of a real antiwar movement, or there could be a prowar backlash that will ambush them next November. Either way, they are safer letting the issue quietly fade away.
So liberal hawks like Peter Beinart take to the pages of elite media (in this case the Washington Post) to tell us that Iraq is now a “non-story,” no longer a pivotal issue in American politics. If their prediction turns out to be true, it will be largely because they are working so hard to make it true. The more people read that the issue no longer matters, the more likely they are to believe that it no longer matters.
It’s up to us to make it matter. More people read letters to the editor column than just about any other part of the newspaper. And the talk shows still have their phone lines open. We may not have the high-paid public relations professionals on our side. But Jim Morrison would surely want us to remember that, if they’ve got the guns, we’ve got the numbers.
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